Behind the scenes with a birth photographer

What is it like to be a birth photographer and witness such an intimate event through the lens of a camera?
What’s it like to be a birth photographer?

While giving birth is definitely not a spectator sport, a growing number of women are employing birth photographers to capture the delivery of their babies.

But what is it like to be a birth photographer and witness such an intimate event through the lens of a camera?

Women’s Weekly spoke to birth photographer Minna Burgess to find out.

Burgess says that although her role requires her to be physically present during a birth, she tries to be as discrete as possible.

“I stay in the background and am very respectful of the birthing environment and the staff,” she says.

“I am a very quiet person with a sensitive nature, and I have found that I fit into this role naturally.”

You may imagine that birth photography is all about capturing the graphic detail, but Burgess says that the process is actually more about story telling.

“It isn’t just about that one moment the baby enters the world, in fact far from it. In essence it is about connection and a celebration of their relationship and this new chapter in their lives,” she explains.

@minna burgess photography

So what does Burgess look out for during the shoot?

“I look for the subtle, gentle moments of connection; the touch of a husband’s hand as he brushes the hair away from his wife’s face in between contractions, the squeeze of a hand when the pain gets too much, a gentle look between two people who are on an incredible journey together, the strength of a woman as she endures contractions.

“My favourite part is capturing the moment the baby is placed on mum for the first feed. I love capturing their little fingers resting against mum’s chest and the calmness and happiness on the parents’ faces at this point,” she says.

Of course, with the exception of elective caesareans, the timing of births can be highly unpredictable. This means that birth photographers like Burgess are on call around the clock from 38 weeks onward.

“I make sure they understand that they can contact me at any time with updates if they think something might be happening. I want to be prepared and would rather come in for a false alarm than miss the birth all together,” she explains.

@minna burgess photography

Burgess notes that every labour and situation is completely different so it is difficult to be fully prepared.

“A lot of the time it is a guessing game. I have found that I get a certain gut feeling around when to leave for the hospital, and I always go with my gut even though it seems it might be too early,” she says.

There are many reasons why birth photographers do what they do – but for Burges, the decision came after having a photographer at the birth of her second daughter.

“My daughter had the cord wrapped around her neck so tightly that the midwife was unable to loosen it. I was told to stop pushing and my baby-girl, Isabel, was without oxygen for a minute while they cut her free from the cord.

“She was almost lifeless when I delivered her and needed oxygen and massage to bring her back. It all only lasted around five minutes and all of a sudden she had a beautiful pink colour and was wide awake looking around at us,” says Burges.

Having the birth captured in a series of photographs enabled Burgess to come to terms with what had happened.

“I think that if I hadn’t had a birth photographer there to document it all for me I would have focused on this very stressful part of the birth. I might have described the experience as traumatic and decided it was a horrible birth. But it wasn’t.

“Looking through my images it was a beautiful day, so much support and love from my husband, the midwives, my friend.”

The experience was so positive that Burgess decided to expand her photography business and add birth photography to her offerings.

“It is the most incredible, blessed, beautiful experience to be a part of,” she says.

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